When it comes to former White Sox moving on, it’s hard to tell what future reflects better on the organization’s decision-making.
On one hand, if a player dumped by the White Sox goes on to (dead-cat?) bounce back with another club the following year, it doesn’t reflect well on the coaching staff, even if it’s more attributable to bad luck and/or physical condition.
On the other hand, if the rest of the league has no interest in a player the White Sox had signed to solve a problem, perhaps that means the White Sox’ scouting is to blame.
The players involved dictate some of the reaction, of course. It’s one thing for Jimmy Rollins to tumble out of the system, because he was ostensibly approaching the end of an illustrious career and was merely a seat-warmer for Tim Anderson. His midseason DFA was a likely outcome, and if he manages to resurrect himself elsewhere, bully for him.
For players whose age suggests something left in the tank — Dioner Navarro, Austin Jackson, etc. -- it’s a lot fuzzier. The compromise: the minor-league contract before the new year. It’s the graceful step down, with the new team showing a similar amount of interest as the White Sox did, but with one more year of knowledge keeping that interest from bleeding over into enthusiasm.
Indeed, the minor-league contract has been the road well traveled, as none of the White Sox’ free agents have found better. (Anthony Ranaudo doesn’t count in this exercise, but his decision to jump to the KBO might’ve resulted in the most lucrative 2017 if he did.)
The rundown as we approach Christmas:
John Danks: Signed a minor-league contract on Dec. 12 with the Braves, which is worth $1.5 million if he makes the majors. He spent the rest of the 2016 season idle after the White Sox designated him for assignment in early May.
J.B. Shuck: Signed a minor-league contract with the Twins on Dec. 17.
Jimmy Rollins: Signed a minor-league contract for the second straight winter, this time with the Giants on Dec. 19. While he appeared to be a lock to break camp with the White Sox, he has no such assurances with San Francisco. Nevertheless, he told Ken Rosenthal that he learned that he wasn’t ready to stop playing, even though he had no illusions about why the White Sox DFA’d him in June.
It definitely wasn’t frustrating. A lot of it had to do with being in a new place. They didn’t have to be loyal to me in any way, shape or form. And I knew that going in.
Whenever Tim Anderson was ready, he was going to get called up regardless of how well I was doing. If I’m doing well, maybe they keep me around to help mentor him. If I’m not doing well, you have him and (Tyler) Saladino playing and you’ve got the youth that they want.
Jacob Turner: Signed a minor-league deal with the Nationals on Dec. 13.
Mat Latos: Unsigned, with no strong rumors. Unlike the other Sox DFA’d during last season, he actually resurfaced with another club in 2016. The Nationals signed him to a minor-league deal and called him up in September. He had roughly the same kind of success.
Alex Avila: Unsigned, and while a reunion with Detroit makes a fair amount of sense, his $2.5 million salary is supposedly prohibitive for the Tigers, which would say something about the extent of their newfound austerity.
Dioner Navarro: Unsigned, with no strong rumors. He finished the year in Toronto after a late-August trade, and he didn’t fare any better with his old club.
Justin Morneau: Unsigned, with only the Indians faintly connected thus far. It’s been a really slow market for first base/DH types, although Morneau has the benefit of being left-handed in a crop that’s heavily righty.
Austin Jackson: Unsigned, with no strong rumors. He changed agencies, from Scott Boras to Octagon, whatever that’s worth.
Matt Albers: Unsigned, with no strong rumors.
One other player I’m tracking out of curiosity is Gordon Beckham, who has somehow avoided a non-rehab return to the minor leagues since the White Sox called him up in 2009 despite a steady early decline. This might be the year that breaks that streak, since home cooking with a rebuilding Atlanta Braves team couldn’t help him hike his OPS out of the mid-.600s. The Braves traded him to the Giants in a rare late-September deal, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be going back, as Dansby Swanson has taken over his old number.